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Only God is perfectly angry and never sinfully.

Only God is perfectly angry and never sinfully.

MAY 9, 2023

/ Programs / Key Life / Only God is perfectly angry and never sinfully.

Justin Holcomb: Only God is perfectly angry and never sinfully. Let’s talk about it, on Key Life.

Matthew Porter:
If you’ve suffered too long under a do more, try harder religion. Key Life is here to proclaim that Jesus sets the captive free. Steve invited Justin Holcomb to teach us this week. Justin is a priest, a seminary professor, and the author of God With Us: 365 Devotions on the Person and Work of Christ.

Justin Holcomb: Thank you Matthew. My name is Justin Holcomb and I have the joy and privilege of teaching this week. And we are looking at anger, we’re also going to be looking at forgiveness in, later on this week. And we’re doing this by exploring Ephesians 4 verse 26 and in some verses from Ephesians 5. Now, the passage yesterday was really about the two first words of Ephesians 4:26, be angry. We noticed that it was a command to be angry. We explored that anger is not always a sin, that God is angry, and that we’re actually invited to participate in God’s anger. Now, today we have the rest of that verse, which is be angry, but in your anger, don’t sin. We’ll be looking at the the entire Ephesians passage. Let me actually read to you the whole passage for today, it’s Ephesians 4:26 through 31.

Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.

That is the Word of the Lord. Now, because we are sinners, we frequently distort and confuse godly anger with our own desire for vengeance or control. This is why the general message of Scripture is that anger is dangerous. It can be a dangerous emotion that is frequently destructive. So, while anger is not always a sin, we frequently express it in sinful ways. And in addition to being invited to participate in God’s anger and that God is angry, we also learn in Scripture that it can be dangerous when wrongly expressed and it can be destructive. You can look at Galatians 5:19 through 21, Colossians 3:8. And right here, our own passage, Ephesians 4:31 communicates this. Most anger against another is not compatible with God’s standards as the Bible does prohibit the thoughtless, unrestrained temper that often leads to rash, harmful, and irretrievable actions. Ephesians 4:26 does allow for anger, but it also warns against sinful anger.

Do not sin in your anger.

Godly anger is permitted and sinful anger is forbidden. And that which is forbidden is mentioned In Ephesians 4:31, there was a list and we ended our reading with it. Bitterness, wrath, and anger that harms will to another. So, sinful anger springs from malice and the desire to hurt the other person. Anger can be utterly wrong, bad, inappropriate, ugly, and completely destructive response to being sinned against. Sinful anger rebels against God and does harm. Godly anger loves God and loves doing good for people. Sinful anger feeds on itself and grows making situations worse by responding to evil with evil, therefore be begetting more evil. Evil wants to make evil in its own image, but unfortunately, and well thankfully, evil can’t, doesn’t have any creative power, but unfortunately it’s distorting of the original good of God’s creation. Unlike God, evil cannot make, it only destroys Godly legitimate anger should not cause us to overlook the destructive force of anger. There’s no question that sinful anger is seen as a destructive force in many Old Testament passages. It was the motivation behind the first murder as Cain became very angry, genesis 4:5. And the logical result of anger is reflected in Genesis 6:11.

The earth was filled with violence.

Ungodly anger harbors the hatred of Cain. It kills to make someone pay for exposure and pain. Close to, but not synonymous with anger is hatred. Hatred is characterized by a general and longstanding negative evaluation of a person. While anger is usually felt against a specific offense. Hatred is forbidden in many instances, while hatred toward an individual is prohibited in some texts, anger against them is not. Hatred, which is long-lasting and based on an overall negative quality, is not to be felt against an individual whom God made and loves. Anger that is often over a specific offense in a short-lived can be felt against an individual. This is why David Powlison and his teaching on anger teaches us.

That anger must be directed toward destroying the problem, not toward destroying the person.

That is a helpful sentence for us all to remember, may the Lord make it so. God’s anger is part of executing final judgment, which is his exclusive domain. Those harboring bitterness and hatred don’t act as if God is concerned about their plight, out of the false belief that they often take matters into their own hands to seek justice. When one actively believes the distortion, that anger is a catalyst simply for self-satisfaction of seeing their perpetrator punished, god’s displeased. Ungodly anger attempts to rectify the wrong done to us by empowering us to act instead of waiting vulnerably for God to do something. It is not only a protection against harm, it is a taunt against God for apparently refusing to act on our behalf, on our terms, Dan Allender and Tremper Longman have a helpful paragraph that I’m going to read.

Although our anger may be directed against others, ultimately we are directing our curses against God. Even when our anger is directed against inanimate objects, it is an attack against the Creator. We’re furious at God for inequality. God seems to be either unable or unwilling to address injustice. Sometimes it even feels as if he is on the side of evil joining the assault against us. We want vengeance. The desire to violate is our repayment to God and others for the emptiness and harm that is not recompenses. It is an attack against an attack, and it will not be satisfied until the other is defeated, humiliated, and utterly annihilated.

I mean, again, Allender and Longman nail it. This sinful anger is now a given after the fall, as we are hardwired for resentment and hatred against God and others. Sinful anger creates vicious circles where evil begets evil. When our anger becomes punitive out to get revenge, it is the opposite of godly anger that has a redemptive purpose of destroying ugliness in order to enhance what is good. Revenge does not heal, it only makes things worse. The trouble with revenge, Hannah Arendt argues.

Is that it enslaves us as vengeance acts in the form of reacting against an original trespass, whereby far from putting an end to the consequences of the first misdeed, everybody remains bound to the process, permitting the chain reaction contained in every action to take its unhindered course.

There’s only one way out of this vicious cycle that binds victim and perpetrator and perpetuates more violence and it’s Romans 12:17 through 21.

Repay no one evil for evil. Beloved, never avenge yourself, but leave it to the wrath of God for it is written, vengeance is mine. I will repay, says the Lord. To the contrary, if your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink. For by doing so, you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

God’s vengeance makes the spiral of vengeance grind to a halt because the assurance that God will punish sin allows believers to freely love. We don’t need to repay evil with evil because the Bible teaches us that in the future, God will do vengeance as he sees fit on his adversaries, and he’ll do it unfortunately in such a horrific way that the violence of the Old Testament pales in comparison. Because vengeance is God’s, you don’t have to be vengeful. You can love and forgive your enemy. As a matter of fact, if you don’t forgive, you are usurping God’s authority to act as a judge. The gift of God’s anger, both now and in the future is that it gets us off the hamster wheel of revenge. It frees us up to actually be recipients of grace, to enjoy the gospel, and let God be God, let God be holy, and let God judge. You may be offended or shocked, and that would make sense since forgiveness is an outrage against straight line dues paying morality. But Christianity is not about karma, it’s about grace. But now may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with us all now and forevermore. Amen.

Matthew Porter:
Thanks Justin. Once again, that was our friend Justin Holcomb, exploring this intriguing idea of being angry, but in a way that’s not sinful. In other words, getting off that hamster wheel of vengeance and to round up the Scriptures we explored today, pencils ready. Ephesians 4:26 through 31, Galatians 5:19 through 21, and Colossians 3:8, oh wait also, Genesis 4:5, Genesis 6:11, and Romans 12:17 through 21. Hey, by the way, there is still time to get your free copy of our new Laughter and Lament booklet. This is something we created that features some nice excerpts from Steve’s most recent book of the same name. The booklet explores the idea that the Bible is kind of a crazy book. It also explores the importance of authenticity, the role of repentance, and the danger of control. Something Steve calls the mother of all addictions. It’s deep, it’s a quick read, and it’s free. So, grab your copy now by calling us at 1-800-KEY-LIFE that’s 1-800-539-5433. You can also e-mail [email protected] to ask for that booklet. Or to mail your request go to for our mailing addresses. Just ask for your free copy of the Laughter and Lament booklet. And one last thing, would you partner in the work of Key Life through your giving? It’s easy to do. You can charge a gift on your credit card or include a gift in your envelope. Or just text Key Life to 28950. And listen, if you can’t give, that’s okay, but do pray for us. Key Life is a member of ECFA in the States and CCCC in Canada. And we are a listener supported production of Key Life Network.

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